It is a great testament to Nelson Rodrigues's brilliance that his writings remain as relevant today as they were when first written nearly half a century ago. In his play The Asphalt Kiss, set in 1960's Brazil, Rodrigues takes on bigotry and media corruption. Forty-five years later, his meditations on homophobia and the media's propensity toward sensationalism over journalistic integrity are still very pertinent in contemporary America. The Lord Strange Company, as part of a monthlong celebration of Rodrigues's works at 59E59 Theaters, embraces this relevance with its premiere of a compelling new adaptation of The Asphalt Kiss. Considered a seminal figure in the Brazilian theatrical canon, Rodrigues was seen as a successor to Eugene Ionesco and a precursor to Harold Pinter. Full of rapid-fire dialogue, his plays deal with the dark side of human existence, featuring larger-than-life characters haunted, even obsessed, by their inner demons. With The Asphalt Kiss he created the carioca tragedy, a play examining the lower classes of Brazilian life, an idea that was unheard-of before Rodrigues's works.
The Asphalt Kiss explores how a simple act of human kindness is perverted by a scandal-obsessed society. As Arandir (James Martinez) and his father-in-law Aprigio (Charles Turner) prepare to cross a busy intersection, a man is struck down by a bus. When good Samaritan Arandir fulfills the dying man's wish and kisses him, an unscrupulous reporter (Joe Capozzi) who witnesses the event turns the compassionate act into salacious front-page news. Tabloid journalism spins into overdrive, and Arandir's life is turned inside out as his friends and family slowly turn against him.
As Arandir, James Martinez is a revelation. Imbuing him with a quiet resolve, Martinez delivers a multilayered and thoughtful portrait of a truly good man trapped in an impossible situation as his world disintegrates. It's a raw, compelling performance of astonishing depth.
As Arandir's lovesick sister-in-law D